The following is reprinted with permission from the author, Don Richmond of Naples, Florida.
The New “Rights” are wrong. Brent Batten was
absolutely correct in his column of March 25 when he stated there is no
right to “the fruits of another group’s labor.”
The Declaration of Independence holds that rights are
“self-evident.” However, it is the failure to grasp the true nature of rights
which has brought this country to its current condition. It remained for the
20th-century philosopher Ayn Rand to explicitly identify rights as “moral
principle(s) defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social
context.” Rights pertain only to “freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or
interference by other men. … Rights impose no obligations on (others) except
of a negative kind: to abstain from violating (your) rights.”
The source of all rights is the right to life, and its sole
implementation is the right to property, the right to use the products of your
efforts to sustain your life. The rights to liberty and the pursuit of
happiness are the rights to enjoy your life and use your property. Rights are
an objectively necessary requirement of human life, principles which apply
equally to all persons and at all times. In sum, rights are freedoms for
rational beings to take the actions necessary to fulfill and enjoy their lives.
Any alleged “right” which violates these rights is not a right, but an excuse
for a crime.
The only way to violate individual rights is through the
initiation of force. A person who initiates force against you is attempting to
negate your means of survival by forcing you to act against your judgment as to
what your life requires. The only moral use of force is in retaliation against
those who initiate its use. The sole proper purpose of government is to protect
its citizens’ rights by banning the initiation of force and placing its
retaliatory use under objective control. The purpose of the U.S. Constitution
was, and is, to establish and maintain the supremacy of individual rights over
our society and our government.
Consider, by contrast, the congressman quoted by Batten: “We have
a moral obligation today, tonight to make health care a right.” That person
believes he has a duty to force the providers of health care to work. Only a
slave has no choice in the work he does. If health care is considered a right,
then someone must provide it, willing or not. If too few people choose the
profession of health care to provide for everyone’s “rights,” how will the need
be met? Will doctors be jailed for the “crime” of leaving medicine? Will
students be drafted into medical schools? If so, what kind of doctors will
result? A doctor in Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” says, “A man who’s willing to
work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the
stockyards,” let alone in an operating room.
The root of this evil is altruism, the perverse principle that
“man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only
justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral
duty, virtue, and value” (Rand). Thus, altruism negates individual rights. If
one has no right to exist for one’s own sake, one has no rights whatsoever. The
health-care measures passed may be touted as “good-faith efforts,” as Batten
stated, but the “good faith” is solidly rooted in an evil premise.
Altruistic ideologues, such as those running our government,
believe that the initiation of force to counteract selfishness is not only
permitted, but obligatory. To a committed altruist, anyone who refuses to
sacrifice, to serve others at his own cost, is harming those others by denying
them their right to the product of his efforts.
It was altruism, not selfishness, that gave rise to the horrors of
communism and fascism. Both systems, variants of collectivism, deny that
individuals have any reason for existence other than to serve others and
advocate stamping out self-interest as a moral imperative. By contrast, this
country was founded by men who did not consider themselves sacrificial animals,
servants or slaves to the state. By claiming that rights are unalienable, they
held that rights exist whether or not anyone chooses to recognize them.
There is no more time to evade this choice. Will we recognize the
existence of individual rights and the full meaning of what they are and what
they require, or will we accept the institutionalized slavery of enforced
service of all to all, where ability is penalized and need is encouraged?
Richmond has a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in operations research. He was a software systems developer on Wall Street. He is now a residential real-estate appraiser. He is a founding member of the Ayn Rand Society for Individual Rights of Naples (ARSIRN), an organization formed to bring Rand’s philosophy of objectivism to greater public notice.